The University of Houston — along with a couple of other Houston-area schools — made the cut of the top 100 schools for U.S. patents granted. Photo courtesy of UH.edu

The University of Houston System reigns as the patent king among colleges and universities in the Houston area.

A new list from the National Academy of Inventors puts UH in a 63rd-place tie — with 27 utility patents issued in 2023 — among 100 recognized schools. As the university explains, utility patents are among the world’s most valuable assets because they give inventors exclusive commercial rights to produce and use their technology.

Other schools in the Houston area that show up on the list are the Texas A&M University System, tied for 30th place with 66 patents, and Rice University, tied for 93rd place with 14 patents.

The University of Rochester in New York shares the No. 63 spot with UH.

“This ranking highlights the commitment of our faculty researchers, who explore frontiers of knowledge to enhance the well-being of our society,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at UH, says in a news release. “At UH, we are committed to creating new technologies that drive innovation, to boost Houston’s economy and tackle some of the most perplexing problems facing us.”

Among the UH discoveries that received utility patents last year are:

  • Methods of targeting cancer stem cells
  • Materials, systems, and methods for carbon capture and conversion.
  • A medical device that positions and tracks the muscular activity of legs.

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • University of Texas System, holding the No. 3 spot with 235 patents
  • Texas Tech University System, tied for 74th place with 20 patents
  • Baylor University, tied for 80th place with 17 patents
  • University of North Texas, tied for 90th place with 15 patents

Ahead of the UT System on the list are the University of California (546 patents) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (365 patents).

“As we look at the current and future state of innovation in our nation, we need to ensure that the U.S. is remaining competitive in the international innovation ecosystem,” Paul Sanberg, president of the National Academy of Inventors, says in a news release. “Protecting intellectual property is a key component to this, and the … list allows us to recognize and celebrate universities and their faculty, staff, and students who are not only innovating at high levels but taking the additional step of protecting their IP through patenting.”

Rice University, University of Houston, and two other schools made this year's ranking of top grad schools. Photo via Rice.edu

4 Houston universities earn top spots for graduate programs in Texas

top schools

Houston's top-tier universities have done it again. U.S. News and World Report has four Houston-area universities among the best grad schools in the state, with some departments landing among the top 100 in the country.

U.S. News publishes its annual national "Best Graduate Schools" rankings, which look at several programs including business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, and many others. For the 2024 report, the publication decided to withhold its rankings for engineering and medical schools. It also changed the methodology for ranking business schools by adding a new "salary indicator" based on a graduate's profession.

U.S. News also added new rankings for doctoral and master's programs in several medical fields for the first time in four years, or even longer in some cases. New specialty program rankings include audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pharmacy, nurse midwifery, speech-language pathology, nurse anesthesia, and social work.

"Depending on the job or field, earning a graduate degree may lead to higher earnings, career advancement and specialized skill development," wrote Sarah Wood, a U.S. News Education reporter. "But with several types of degrees and hundreds of graduate schools, it can be difficult to narrow down the options."

Without further ado, here's how the local schools ranked:

Rice University's Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business maintained its position as No. 2 in Texas, but slipped from its former No. 24 spot in the 2023 report to No. 29 overall in the nation in 2024. Its entrepreneurship program tied for No. 8 in the U.S, while its part-time MBA program ranked No. 15 overall.

Houston's University of Texas Health Science Centerearned the No. 3 spots in Texas for its masters and doctorate nursing programs, with the programs earning the No. 31 and No. 45 spots overall in the nation. The school ranked No. 25 nationally in the ranking of Best Public Health schools, and No. 36 for its nursing-anesthesia program.

Prairie View A&M University's Northwest Houston Center ranked No. 5 in Texas and No. 117 in the nation for its master's nursing program. Its Doctor of Nursing Practice program ranked No. 8 statewide, and No. 139 nationally.

The University of Houstonmoved up one spot to claim No. 4 spot in Texas for its graduate education program, and improved by seven spots to claim No. 63 nationally. Its graduate business school also performed better than last year to claim No. 56 in the nation, according to the report. The University of Houston Law Center is the fifth best in Texas, and 68th best in the U.S. Most notably, its health care law program earned top nods for being the seventh best in the country.

Among the new specialty program rankings, UH's pharmacy school ranked No. 41 nationally, while the speech-language pathology program earned No. 44 overall. The graduate social work and public affairs programs ranked No. 67 and No. 76, respectively, in the nation.

The full list of best graduate schools can be found on usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

David Pruner, executive director of TEX-E, joins the Houston Innovator Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

This Houston innovator's statewide mission to advance energy transition innovation on college campuses

houston innovators podcast episode 224

Collaboration is the name of the game for David Pruner, executive director of the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy, known as TEX-E, a nonprofit housed out of Greentown Labs that was established to support energy transition innovation at Texas universities.

TEX-E launched in 2022 in collaboration with Greentown Labs, MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, and five university partners — Rice University, Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, University of Houston, and The University of Texas at Austin.

Pruner was officially named to his role earlier this year, but he's been working behind the scenes for months now getting to know the organization and already expanding its opportunities from students across the state at the five institutions.

"In the end, we have five different family members who need to be coordinated differently," Pruner says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "There's plenty of bright students at each of these schools, and there's plenty of innovation going on, it's whether it can grow, prosper, and be sustainable."

Pruner describes the organization as pulling the best resources from each of the schools, with TEX-E operating as a bit of a matchmaker to connect students across the state through in-person opportunities and its digital platform.

"Our main job is to look to connect everyone, so that an engineer at Texas A&M that has an idea that they want to pursue, but they don't know the business side, can meet that Rice MBA," Pruner says, giving a hypothetical example. "Then, when they realize it's going to be a highly regulated product, we need a regulatory lawyer at UT — we can make all that happen and connect them."

TEX-E's programming includes a bootcamp course, fellowship opportunities at each school, and an annual startup competition at CERAWeek with $50,000 of pre-seed funding up for grabs. Next year, as Pruner explains on the show, the organization will also roll out an accelerator.

Pruner shares more about the program and its future, as well as his views on Houston as a major leader for the energy transition.

Houston-based MD Anderson will help the University of Texas expand its medical school in Austin. University of Texas at Austin/Facebook

MD Anderson, UT team up to expand medical school

ready to grow

Powerhouse and award-winning Houston cancer center MD Anderson will partner with the University of Texas at Austin to expand Dell Medical School and build two new hospitals.

This new medical center, called The University of Texas at Austin Medical Center, will include two facilities: a comprehensive cancer center operated by MD Anderson and a multi-specialty hospital operated by the University of Texas.

The project will be made possible by the demolition of the 500,000-square-foot Frank Erwin Center, which officially closed in May 2022. Its replacement, the Moody Center, officially opened to the public in April 2022, and in April 2023 celebrated its jam-packed first year.

In May, the UT System's Board of Regents approved an item paving the way for Dell Medical School's expansion. The full demolition is estimated to cost $25 million, and the university hopes to finish the demolition project by October 2024.

University Chancellor James Milliken and Board of Regents Chair Kevin Eltife announced the project on Monday along with Gov. Greg Abbott.

MD Anderson is a branch of the UT system and was recently named No. 1 in the country for cancer care by U.S. News & World Report. It is the largest cancer care center in the U.S. and one of the original three comprehensive cancer centers in the country.

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An earlier version of this story reported one new facility instead of two. It has been updated to reflect the correct information. Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

TexPower's founders — Board Chairman Arumugam Manthiram, CTO Wangda Li, and CEO Evan Erickson, respectively — celebrated the opening of the company's new lab space. Photo courtesy of TexPower

Houston startup with revolutionary battery technology opens new labs

power move

A Houston startup founded off research out of a Texas university has cut the ribbon on its new lab space.

TexPower EV Technologies Inc. celebrated the opening of its 6,000-square-foot laboratory and three-ton-per-year pilot production line at a ribbon-cutting event last week. The Northwest Houston site is located at 6935 Brittmoore Rd.

The new space will help the company further commercialize its cobalt-free lithium-ion cathode, lithium nickel manganese aluminum oxide (NMA). The technology is game changing for the electrification of the United States, including the rapid adoption of electric vehicles.

Currently, the country is experiencing a supply chain crisis, says Evan Erickson, co-founder and CEO of the company, at the event. Most of the world's cobalt, a material traditionally used in lithium-ion cathodes, is sourced primarily from the Congo and refinement is mostly controlled by China, he explains.

For these reasons, Cathodes are the most expensive component of lithium-ion batteries. But TexPower has a unique technology to solve this supply chain issue, and now with its new labs, is one step closer to commercialization of its materials.

TexPower spun out of the University of Texas at Austin in 2019. The company was co-founded by Erickson with CTO Wangda Li and Board Chairman Arumugam Manthiram, a professor at UT whose lithium-ion battery research fuels the foundation of the company.

“We want to point out how lucky we are — as a company and as scientists," Erickson says at the ribbon cutting event. "It’s not common that you see something you work on in academia turn into something that can become commercially successful.”

Prior to the newly built labs, TexPower operated out of the University of Houston's Tech Bridge. The company intends to raise additional funding to support its expansion.

According to the company, the new three-ton-per-year pilot line is the first step toward building a manufacturing facility that's capable of producing up to 50 times more the amount of cathode with a goal to impact markets such as defense, power tools, and eVTOL.

CEO Evan Erickson celebrated the new lab space opening last week

Photo courtesy of TexPower

Matthew Brown (left) and Steve May wrote their report on Anchitheriomys buceei for Palaeontologia Electronica. Photo courtesy of UT Jackson School of Geosciences

Texas researchers name ancient beaver fossil after favorite Texas gas station

Beaver Country

The legend of a treasured gas station chain continues with a new chapter: a rediscovered beaver fossil is being named after Buc-ee’s.

The ancient animal was named Anchitheriomys buceei (A. buceei) by Steve May, a research associate at the University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences and lead author of the Palaeontologia Electronica paper that describes the beaver.

A. buceei fossils were rediscovered by researchers in UT Austin’s collections and include fossils from six different Texas sites. May decided to name A. buceei after Buc-ee’s after spotting a “This is Beaver Country” billboard in 2020 that reminded him of the fossils he was studying at the time.

Though Buc-ee’s was founded in 1982, CEO Arch “Beaver” Alpin III said in a press release that his business’ history is longer than he thought, and that he may “need to rethink [their] beginnings.”

Occurrences of A. buceei can be found between 15 and 22 million years ago along the state’s gulf coast. At first glance, they don’t appear much different from current native Texas beavers. But according to the report’s co-author Matthew Brown, who is also the director of the Jackson School’s vertebrate paleontology collections, they are nearly 30 percent bigger than today’s beavers.

A partial skull fossil of the beaver was originally collected in 1941 by paleontologists. One of the original finders was Texas A&M University museum curator Curtis Hesse, who passed away four years later before he could name it a new species and publish his study.

More information about A. buceei can be found on UT Austin’s website.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Financiers plan to launch a Texas-based stock exchange

yeehaw

A group of financial firms and investors is planning to launch a Texas-based private market stock exchange and offer traders an alternative to the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

The group, which includes BlackRock, Citadel Securities and about two dozen investors, raised approximately $120 million of capital to create the Texas Stock Exchange, which would be headquartered in Dallas. They are now seeking registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to operate as a national securities exchange later this year.

“Texas and the other states in the southeast quadrant have become economic powerhouses. Combined with the demand we are seeing from investors and corporations for expanded alternatives to trade and list equities, this is an opportune time to build a major, national stock exchange in Texas,” said James Lee, founder and CEO of TXSE Group.

Stock exchanges are private institutions where stocks, bonds and other securities are traded. If the SEC clears TXSE to begin operations, it will be the first stock exchange to launch in the country in recent years.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the creation of the new exchange, TXSE promises to be more CEO-friendly than other exchanges and wants to capitalize on discontent over new rules and rising compliance costs at Nasdaq and NYSE.

“If we look at the three states with the largest economy, New York has two stock exchanges. Texas, comparably to California, is growing economically and demographically really fast, and already has a big number of Fortune 500 biggest companies headquarters, so it makes sense Dallas would be an ideal place,” said Steven Pedigo, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and an expert in economic and urban development.

But it could be difficult for a new exchange to take off in the U.S. listings market, where the Nasdaq and NYSE have dominated for decades. The U.S. exchange business consists of about 16 equities exchanges with NYSE accounting for more than 20% of the volume in equities trading in May and Nasdaq over 15%, according to Bloomberg. Nasdaq acquired the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and Boston Stock Exchange, two of the oldest exchanges in the country, in 2007. The NYSE bought the Chicago Stock Exchange in 2018.

“What makes this project interesting is the big companies that supported and financed the new stock exchange, that is why it could be a serious competitor. But it is a ‘to be continued’ story,” Pedigo said.

TXSE founders said they chose Texas as the home for the new national securities exchange because of the state’s rapid economic and population growth. Texas has been a leader in attracting business relocations and expansions in recent years. More than 7,200 firms relocated to Texas between 2010 and 2019, creating nearly 103,000 jobs, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Businesses that relocated to Texas mostly went to the state’s major metropolitan areas, with Dallas and Houston being the favored destinations.

Major corporations like Tesla and Toyota have chosen the state as their new home base in recent years. Big financial companies like Goldman Sachs have also made big investments lately in Dallas.

Pedigo said this new stock exchange wouldn’t necessarily lead to more jobs being created in the state but would help further bolster the pro-business image Texas has been working on for years.

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This story was originally published by The Texas Tribune and distributed through a partnership with The Associated Press.